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Life Drawing at Charleston Farmhouse

There’s art on show everywhere you turn this weekend with Lewes Art Wave – so how about creating your own works by joining a life drawing class?

Even if you are completely new to it you’ll find you are welcome with this small, eclectic (and eccentric) group.

The Walled Garden, Charleston Farmhouse, East Sussex (CC BY SA 4.0 J FVernon)

What is more, the next two sessions, owing to our usual venue in the Hay Barn at Charleston being unavailable, the session this Tuesday 6th September (and in a month’s time) will be outdoors in the Walled Garden, or if chilly/wet in the ‘Outer Studio’ of Charleston Farmhouse itself, making this an even more of a unique ‘Bloomsbury’ experience.

All levels from absolute beginner to experienced artist are welcome – what marks you make and how is entirely up to you. I started out when we met in the Outer Studio back in October or November 2016.

The sessions are run by the sculptor Silvia MacRae Brown.

Silvia MaxRae Brown (CC BY SA 3.0 J FVernon)

The models (male/female) are always extraordinary, and have the talent for creating and holding a pose, or creating a sequence of slow movement that we artists/students must somehow capture. Bring a picnic (the restaurant is closed), coffee/tea and biscuits are provided – as are all the materials if you turn up empty handed (easels, boards, paper, clips, charcoal/pencils). £55 for the day, from 10.00am to 4:00pm.

To confirm or enquire (part days are possible too) Email: silviamacraebrown@btinternet.com

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Life Drawing at Charleston with Silvia MacRea Brown

Life Drawing at Charleston – Model ‘Dave’ (C) Silvia MacRea Brown (2022)

I look forward to the first Tuesday of each month with trepidation; I’ve been attending a life drawing class at Charleston (in the Hay Barn conversion for the last few years). The models are always very well chosen: good at their job! able to hold an interesting pose and ready to try all the things that Silvia suggests, which includes continual movement, as well as movement into a short poses, and then of course the class short pose (one to five minutes), the longer pose (ten to 20 minutes) and about as long as we go (45 minutes).

I was brought up on the 3 hour pose. The single, carefully executed effort to reproduce exactly what the eye can see. This is not Silvia’s approach; this is art from the heart and soul, on the fly, capturing the sense of the movement, the essence of the model. I’ve come to prefer sketches completed in a few minutes, while last time I ran off more than 30 ‘doodles’ onto a lengthy sheet of wall liner paper using wax crayons – the movement continual, each sketch possible a few seconds each.

This has been invaluable on my recent efforts to capture the ‘essence’ of club swimmers slogging it up and down the pool. Capturing the feeling, sense and movement of limbs and water, with the added complication of reflections is proving one heck of a challenge! Going out to sketch trees is proving easier – though fraught with its own problems. Does a tree keep still? How do you fit it onto the page? How do you different between tree species without going into the detail of a leaf or the bark?

The cost is still £55 for the day – which is excellent value for 6 hours at Charleston. We start at 10.00am and finish at 4.00pm. It isn’t all drawing. There are a few coffee/tea breaks (coffee/tea, milk and biscuits provided). And we break for an hour for our picnic lunch. We can sit in the Charleston Café (they are closed on Tuesdays) or find a spot in the yard. Or make a dash for Middle Farm along the A27.

I go away mentally and even physically exhausted. I like to ‘knock ’em out’. I also keep everything – religiously. This was my later mother’s mantra. I still have drawings I did with her in my early teens, and a few self-portraits done even younger, and the odd girlfriend from my mid to late teens (clothed I must add!). I never attempted a nude until my early twenties (and the drawing wasn’t what either of us had in mind). Then one class in Primrose Hill in the 1990s and nothing until we moved to Brighton in 2000 – and the first classes with Sussex County Arts in Brighton from 2014 or so, with Silvia at Charleston since November 2016.

With the unusually fine and dry weather the back ‘yard’ here in Lewes is a temporary studio. Feeling like San Diego I feel confident to leave boards, easel and all the accruitments of my ‘practice’ out – currently just watercolour onto cold-pressed cartridge paper.

Liz, the model, while she moved continually (Crayola Wax Crayon on wall paper liner) CC SA-BY 3.0 J F Vernon 2022

No budget sees me being resourceful. I have come to love wall paper lining and wax crayon. The very materials my mother started us kids off on when we were little: I cannot remember when I started to draw as it would have been age 3 or 4, as soon as I could hold something in my hand and not be inclined to eat it or shove it up my nose or into my ear.

I’m wasting time. I have two drawings marked up to paint and want to press on. Both are someone in water – both are of one of Silvia’s models ‘Dave’ in this instance (my wife has said she is fed up of seeing naked women all over the house so I’ve been working up sketches I have of ‘Dave’ and ‘Tim’).

Come to think of it, that is ‘Tim’ falling into the water (clothed as a swimming coach who someone has pushed into the pool, while the swimmer is ‘Dave’ – as Dave is bald which makes it easier to turn the top of his head into a swimming cap. Neither actually look like they are swimming, which is the problem.

I have been drawing swimmers in action – a challenging task! All swirls, shapes and somewhat reminiscent of a series of too short time-lapse photographs in which everything is blurred.

Students at one of Silvia’s recent classes in the Hay Barn, Charleston (C) Silvia MacRea Brown 2022)

I digress. There is a class coming up, this Tuesday 2nd August, at Charleston – in the fancy new Hay Barn rather than in the infamous Farmhouse. If are planning to attend or have questions get in touch with Silvia by email: silviamacreabrown@btinternet.com. If you want a lift from Lewes email me: joanthanferugsonvernon@gmail.com

Brighton Open Houses Festival 2022

We attend Brighton Open Houses Festival on at least one day of the four weekends in May each year; we usually make a better job of it. Discussions beforehand and having tried to gauge what to visit we made an overly ambitious plan. Rather than sticking to one trail and walking from neighbour to neighbour over a number of hours we’d cherry pick a few studios and move between them on foot, electric train and bus. We needed the car. 

It didn’t quite work out – we spent too much time on foot a long way between venues. Indeed the 12,000 steps was the biggest takeaway rather than the excitement of a particular venue or artist. 

Devil’s Dyke Farm 

That said, we made a reasonable start at Devil’s Dyke Farm, though we thought this would be an Open House; instead we found a wedding venue marquee and an event that had a commercial air to it. Devil’s Duke Farm was excellent for what it was: well signposted, ample parking, loos, coffee and even alcohol (but not food) and ample space for each of the artists/creators to display their work. 

Perennial favourites here included Sarah Jones and Helen Brown, as well as the charming Wolfram Lohr and his handcrafted wooden and leather hanging plant containers. 

The price was a bit steep and I was unconvinced that a pot full of water, crocks, soil and a plant would remain secured to the wall. 

The history of the location, the end of the line for the Devil’s Dyke Railway, was fascinating (it’s a shame that the train doesn’t still operate). 

The views are also panoramic with 15 or 20 miles out to the top of the horizon taking in the vast Rampion Offshore Wind Farm and huge shipping silhouetted on their traffic lanes in the Channel.

Our next move was to park up in Brighton Marina, dodging the Sunday morning car boot sale. We’d have 4 hours for the rest of our trip. The thinking was a dinky ride on the Volks Electric Rail would take us into Brighton and then we’d walk along the seafront dropping into a number of venues, then come back through town via venues near the station, the Lanes and finally Kemp Town. To achieve this we would have needed bikes or scooters – or taken an Über between some parts of time; I hadn’t realised the distances involved which explains why the ‘trails’ have been created. Yes, select a trail and walk between venues on this trail. No, pick and mix across many trials thinking you’d still be able to walk between them. Brighton and Hove is not Ditchling! The Ditchling Art Wave venues really are linked back gardens, shop fronts and venues that are neighbours. And we ought to have come on the first weekend and made our mistakes then rather than leaving it all to the last day.

The highlight of the Volks Electric Railway was to make the first purchase of a discounted ticket for a ‘Senior’. The train has had a renovation recently but is otherwise much as it was when constructed 150 years ago, and much the same as when I first made a trip into Brighton from the Marina in August 1980. On that occasion I was on a family sailing trip with my late father and his boat; his boat Canny Lass, a Fischer 38 was moored on the new marina. At the time the ONLY building on the site was the Portacabin like Brighton Sailing Club.

The Dog Show 

The walk from the end of the Volks Line to the 360 and into Brighton was far further than expected. At least the result was a typical Open House treet, a couple of rooms, a grand Georgian parlour featuring in this case a variety of artists, painters and makers on the theme of dogs. 

There were many lovely pictures and items, though we were not tempted to purchase any prints or cards. I have promised Wanda that I will draw Evie, from life, and see what I can do to add colour with paints or pastels. 

The second venue was a ground floor studio around the corner; a lovely space but the landscapes, though well executed in oil appeared somewhat kitsch and invented, not real landscapes but landscapes of the mind with certain motives repeated in that way that might appeal to a certain purchaser, but lacks authenticity. In all honesty I had no idea where the places being depicted were and no title invited us to think this was the Downs at sunset, the Pennines and Spanish Nivada.

Having taken up an hour and a half since leaving the marina we now found we had a 20 minute walk diagonally across town to pick up a venue, only to need a further 20 minutes to get up to London Road Station. We had miscalculated, our feet were tired, we needed coffee and possibly something to eat. We rethought our plan, instead staying closer to the coast. This had its disappointments because of course it took in crafty shops, though the Sussex Arts Club Annual Show was worth the visit to renew my interest in attending regular drop-in sessions here (£12 for 2 hours). I recognised a number of the models, for example the wiry and gymnastic ‘Peter’ and spoke to our host, one of the artists. 

The work is of a really high standard and wonderfully eclectic in the variety of approaches and results from oils to charcoal, pencil to watercolour. I took life drawing up six years ago and have, I feel, started to produce work that would be worth displaying. I’m best at doing several quick pieces in a few minutes – even the three minute pose can feel too long for me. I want to get it right, get the feel and look of the model and their pose with a dozen or some marks or not at all. 

There were some hidden gems around Hanningtons, quirky one off ideas executed with a sense of fun, such as the comical piece made of painted driftwood with cartoons and cheeky, rude or political comments.

By 4:15pm our options were running out. We had to get back to the Marina.

We had expected to use our return ticket on the Volks Electric Train, but wanted to visit a number of venues towards and around Kemp Town. We had left it too late, though we could have driven up to one venue which would be open until 6:00pm. Hunger was now the motivation and it started to rain. 

Patsy Mcarthur had a first floor lounge looking over the sea, the perfect Open House venue perhaps to show her large water themed paintings and charcoal drawings of swimmers young and old, in bathing costumes or clothes, frolicking and twisting about in a pool, lake or open sea, swimming hard or just enjoying the feel of the water. 

I could see these large pieces of art displayed by someone’s swimming pool, or recreated as massive murals to cover an entire wall of a 25m or even 50m swimming pool. That or where they are most likely destined in a home with the light and a pool.

I’d happily pay the £7,000 for one of the larger paintings though these days, even if I had the money, I am less keen to purchase prints for £200 – these still need to be framed well to take their place properly on the wall. There was a hardback book though. Not being the type to gush about being embroiled by British understatement, I failed to get a selfie with the artist, have her sign the book or even talk much at all about her work, her inspiration … and most importantly of all, how she does it. 

I rather think my days of purchasing art are long gone (I have a couple of peices bought through Artsy 8 years ago).  instead I need to be making my own. I am, and always want to aim at peices 8ft long and 6ft high – so scale. But I’m still, I feel ‘getting my hand in’ and learning some simple techniques. I can see, I can draw, I can compose, but I’ve never mastered colour beyond a light watercolour wash over an inked up drawing. 

Having a space to paint without having to clear everything off the kitchen table two or three times a day would help! In our excursions we admire the different studio spaces and wonder what changes we could make around our own home. My ambition is to take my life drawing to life sized pieces and any urban landscapes I am venturing towards a good 6ft by 4ft or larger. I’m not for diddling about as if I am painting an Airfix model, and I can see that it is the large image that is best reduced down for prints and postcards (If we go this far). 

The limiting experience of the museum visit unleashed

A lifelong love in art galleries yet I still feel unmoved by galleries and museums, possibly because I expect the gentle, guiding voice of my late mother at my shoulder (artist, art historian, Mum).

What could be a more personalised visit than to have someone who knows you so well point things out, guide you to things that will interest or irritate, then offer an insight – invariably linked to ‘what do you do next?’ i.e. look, learn then apply.

 

Does exposure in the sense of ‘open’ learning work?

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Fig. 1. what collaboration online looks like? Activity theory meets neuroscience. This could be many heads knocking together, or the internal workings inside one.

I’m getting a sense of deja vu as the rhythm of H818 reveals itself. I’m doing the Open University module H818:The Networked Practitioner. It runs until Jan 2014.

Openness comes with caveats. It is not everyone’s cup of tea.

As people we adjust our behaviour in different environments. I am not saying that we necessarily behave in the same way in an Open Studio online (a virtual studio no less) than we do or would in an open studio, as in a collective in a workshop or ‘atlier’ that is ‘exposed’ to fellow artists in the physical world, but wherever we are ‘open’, in the physical or virtual worlds, we are nonetheless prone to human interaction with all the usual undercurrents.

For all those busy exposing themselves, the easiest default position, someone – ‘one’ being the key word, has the door closed and is getting on with the job without the distraction of others. Is achievement and success of necessity a lonely, not a ‘connected’ activity? You can do the networking once you have a product to sell or a well formed opinion to share … otherwise this is nothing more than ‘chatting’ in the First World War sense of the word – idol banter to pass the time between periods of conflict.

What I believe will not work is to put a gaggle of creators in the same room and expect them to collaborate. The studios of the ‘open’ type that I am aware of are either the classic Rennaisance workshop with a master artist and apprentices at various stages of their own development, or, with a similar dynamic in operation, the ‘occupants’ of a studio, or business unit cum workshop, are exposed LESS to each other and more to external commentators and contributors. This requires some formality to it .i.e. not simply ‘the person off the street’ but an educator/moderator in their own right.

It also helps if people have parricular skills sets that when combined work together – as in a team producing a film.

Is H818:The Networked Practitioner too dependent on chance? The foibles of a small cohort of postgraduate students with little in common and complete strangers … and the complex, messy, moments ‘we’ are each in. Actions differ between those who have had the course paid for by their institution, those who are doing it out of their own pocket for career advancement which requires the degree and anyone in it ‘for the love of it’ – with full-time employment, part-time employment or retirement, and any number of other commitments that colour participation and attitudes.

Over three years of this and, by chance only, surely … six of us strangers in a subgroup jelled. More often the silence and inactivity of the majority makes ‘group work’ a myth – partnerships of two or three were more likely. The only exception I have come across in the ‘real world’ have been actors working together on an improvisation – they have been trained however to disassociate their natural behaviours. The reasons why that ‘six’ worked has been a topic I have returned to often – team dynamic, spread around the globe on different time zone, all experienced practitioners and typically on our second or third OU module … digitally literate, socially networked …

Some of us study with the OU as we cringe at the ‘exposure’ of a course that requires us to meet in the flesh – distance learning suits, to some degree, the lone worker who prefers isolation.

By way of revealing contrast I am a tutor at the School of Communication Arts – a modest though pivitol role given their format and philosophy – exposure to many hundreds of kindred spirits who have been there … a sounding board and catalyst. NOT a contributor, but more an enabler.

We’ll see. My thinking is that to be effective, collaboration or exposure needs to have structure, discipline and formality. Of course this is or should be exactly what the ‘Open Studio’ platform provides. But like a restaurant, however lovely the decor, if the place is empty no one will be eating the food.

At the Brighton Arts Festival the other evening I wonder how the 80 odd exhibtors would cope if the Cornexchange was also their workshop? In certain, vulnerable environments, the only comment should be praise. Feedback is invited from those who are trusted.

A school setting is different again, as is college … people share the same space because they have to.

Open Studio apears to try to coral the feedback that comes anyway from a connected, popular and massive sites such as WordPress, Linkedin Groups, Facebook and even Amazon. Though the exposure, if you permit it, is tempered and negotiated – Facebook is gentle amongst family and friends, Linkedin is meterd and professional in a corporate way, WordPress is homespun while Amazon, probably due to the smell of money, can be catty – and in any case, the artefact is a done deal it’s not as if, to take a current example, Max Hastings is going to rewrite his book on the First World War because some in the academic community say that it is weak historicaly and strong only on journalistic anecdote. Some of the reviews read like they were posted by a PR department, not a person. Another story, but can we smell a rat as easily in the virtual as in the physical world?

We’ll see.

The Oxford Theatre Group on the Edinburgh Fringe, August 1982

Thirty years ago I took a Sony Betamax kit to the Edinburgh Fringe and shot all the action around the Oxford Theatre Group as they set up, rehearsed then put on five productions: Titus Alone, Edward II, The Thirteen Clocks, The Oxford Review and The Hunger Artist.

The clips above are random grabs from the video. The playback quality suffers from drop out. There are several hours of rushes – putting up the stage, putting up posters around town, rehearsals in a sunlit hall for Titus Alone and the Oxford Review, and rehearsing Titus Alone outside on Arthur’s Mount. The cut ‘documentary’ features several copyright music tracks that I need to replace before the entire video can be shown, for now those featured can view by providing their email address.

For three decades the original Betamax tapes have been in a box, carefully stacked, in an attic or garage.

Nicky King, who produced Titus Alone wrote and voiced the ‘documentary’ with Matthew Faulk the editor – all achieved mixing between a Sony Betamax and VHS player.

I’m keen to put together the complete crew and cast list – I had or have programmes and posters somewhere in a large box.

The above include:

Patrick Harbinson, Nicky King, David Tushingham, Nigel Williams, Humprey Bower, Mark Ager, Rebecca Rosengard, Jack Latimer, Carrie Gracie … Stefan Bednarczyk.

Other productions I have from Oxford include: The Taming of the Shrew (OUDS) – hours of rehearsals, Abigail’s Party (Directed by Anthony Geffen) – the entire production, as well as various clips from other Oxford productions I am yet to identify.

Where do I stand academically? Where and what next? And the madness of being.

Masters in Open and Distance Education (MAODE) with the Open University, UK (OU)

H800: Technology-enhanced learning: practices and debates

H807: Innovations in eLearning – Learning outcomes

H810: Accessible online learning: supporting disabled students

B822: Creativity, Innovation and Change

H808: The e-learning professional

This completes the Masters Degree. I graduate on Saturday 27th April 2013

Currently (March 2013) I am taking H809 as a bridge towards doctoral research or professional consultancy. Complete in June 2013.

H809 Practice-based research in educational technology

I joined the #H817open MOOC for one component of this module. I will register for 2014

H817: Openness and innovation in e-learning.

I am applying to undertake doctoral research in education – using learning technologies.
 
H809 will help prepare for applications starting in January 2014 for an October 2014 start. Most are now a 4 year programme, with a Masters in research to begin. WebSciences at University of Southampton is an interesting option – I attended an Open Day in January.
Too many active interests was a stated issue on childhood school reports. Nothing’s changed.
 
I am looking at an MA in History with the University of Birmingham which would give me the opportunity study the First World War. (I have written extensively about this through my late grandfather’s memoire ‘That’s Nothing Compared to Passchandeale’)
I attended the School of Communication Arts, London. A full-time programme in copywriting, art direction and design and have worked in the ‘creative’ and ‘communications’ industries all of my career.
And ‘EAVE’ (European Audiovisual Entrepreneurs)
My first degree is in Geography.
My dissertation was on demographics. I love maps. Perhaps I should try to match maps, e-learning and the First World War. Animated it all and add some interviews and n ‘drama reconstruction’.
See what happens when you let something fester and wake up in the middle of the night.
 
Neuroscience and long term memory are fascinating too.
I need my life over. I need to split into three and start again. I need a coffee and a long walk on the South Downs. (I need to go back to bed)
And then there’s Fine Art.
 
And Creative Writing. And cooking. And the garden. There’s teaching, and moderating … and blogging. There’s movies. And sailing and swimming coaching. There’s family and friend … ah. Friend? I knew there was something missing in all of the above.
Scrap the lot and have a belated 50th birthday to celebrate 20 years of marriage, parenthood and the madness of being. Then sign up to crew in the Round the World Yacht Race.
There’s a reason why I call this blog ‘mind bursts’.

2012 in review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

4,329 films were submitted to the 2012 Cannes Film Festival. This blog had 28,000 views in 2012. If each view were a film, this blog would power 6 Film Festivals

Click here to see the complete report.

 

Inspiration

 

Fig.1. Inspiration courtesy of a pad of cartridge paper, the Royal Academy of Arts, designers in residence at the Design Museum, Mirrielees on Story Writing and Robert Gagne‘s ‘The Conditions of Learning’. There’s a guitar by the desk and a set of 6B pencils and a putty rubber out of vision.

For moments when the Muse calls … and when she doesn’t.

The cartridge paper and guitar would be on my Desert Island.

 

When did you last stumble upon such words of encouragement?

Is

Fig.1. Words of encouragement

Isn’t this all that we need? Someone who believes?

(On the inside of a folder of  ‘creative writing’ from my teens – short stories, a novel, a TV screenplay, poems and lyrics. Lyrics that the author of these words put to music).

Don’t tell me I am not still that 19 year old.

This is the human condition.

Days before my mother died, with barely any faculties functioning I span her through grabs of famous artworks on an iPad – her last cogniscent words were ‘Louvre, Paris’ while all but my sister and I say a dead person waiting to die.

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